Advice for the Novice Handler

5 January 99 Wade Pelton wrote:

<<Any suggestion for me? I will be in my very first novice competiton with DALLAS the end of the month. WADE>>

Let me put your note out to the BAD folk so that they may advise you! I would say, be ready to run the course with your eyes closed. You should be able to turn your back on the course after a walk-through and run the whole course in your mind. If you can't do that, spend some time looking at the course and reviewing it before you run it. At the Novice level the course is usually straight-forward without too many changes of direction or traps. Hope you have some friends to cheer you on. I always find the Texas crowd friendly! That always helps, too. Also, don't forget to let us know how you do!


Ann Krafcheck 6 January 1999

Tasha -Ch/ U-ACH Meadow's Fantasia, MX, AXJ, OAC, OJC, NGC, CD, U-CD, HC, HCT, CGC, VX

Drake-Meadows' Legend of the Dragon, NAJ, NJC, HC, HCT, HT

<<Hi, Libby,

I agree 100% that it's essential to run the course in your mind. When we were starting out in agility, I always walked the course several times, planned my strategy of how the course SHOULD be run, then proceeded to review it SEVERAL times in my head so I knew it cold. My fellow agility novices were standing around chatting, not paying one lick of attention to the course. When it was time to run it, whom do you suppose made the most mistakes??? It wasn't Tasha and me!! I figure, you pay your entry, you might as well make the best effort you can to leave with a qualifying score!

Another piece of advice, for what it's worth, is to walk the course how YOUwould run it, then walk it from the dog's perspective. For instance, where are they going to land and what direction will they be facing when they come off a jump? What can they see from the start line and how should you line them up? Etc.

Also, have a positive attitude and plan for success but also expect the unexpected. We've had all kinds of surprises out in the ring from loud furnaces, blowing fans, kids with food hanging over the ring and pop machines making noise right in the middle of the run to guns going off in the next ring (during a poorly timed hunting demonstration!!!) tennis balls rolling out into the ring ......Anything can happen.....and usually does. So train with plenty of distractions.

My Beardies never cease to surprise me with their antics. So when we train to avoid one pitfall, the Beardie kids are ready to surprise me with something new. Learn to laugh (a lot!) and train, don't complain. Agility is supposed to be fun. A chance to bond with your Beardie. So do that. You are a team out there. Work that course the entire time you're out there and encourage your teammate all the way! The dog can't do all the work....but neither can you. And remember...........NO excuses. Some of my most successful runs were those in which we did NOT qualify. So look for the high points and learn from your mistakes. And have FUN!!

Don't be discouraged by handlers who really seem to know what they're doing....remember, we've all been there. By watching some of the more advanced dogs and handlers run, you can really learn a lot. And keep in mind that it's usually the good handler that doesn't offer a lot of advice.....It's been my experience that it's normally the people who really don't know what they're talking about who try to offer me advice. So learn to weed out the good advice from the bad. And if you're really impressed by one of the good handlers and want to know how they were able to tackle a certain problem, etc. just ask them. Most of the time they'll be flattered that they're being consulted and will then offer you their opinion.

Finally, don't be discouraged by people who are a little less than congenial. Stewards, timekeepers,etc. who are having a bad day tend to take it out on others....and sometimes this really discourages the novice handler. So just learn to ignore these nasty people. Life's too short!

That's probably more than anyone wants to hear...but hopefully some of the information is useful!

Regards from the snowy Midwest!

Wishing all the novice (and not so novice!) handlers many qualifying scores in 1999!

Ann, Tasha and Drake (the Bionic Beardie!) Krafcheck

Helix Fairweather-6 January 1999

Brady-Ch Chelsic First Hello at Kweo, CGC

I'm a Novice handler too. One thing I was rather slow to learn was how to plan the course strategy for MY dog. I'd get out there and plan the optimal, wonderfully efficient, smartest course because, after all, I am very clever. <BG> However, it finally occurred to think of the course with BRADY in mind - where would she be when she came off the dogwalk, what would she see that would grab her attention, does she need me to be close to her to get up the teeter, etc etc.

For the beginner there are so many things to do and remember and stuff just goes by so fast. My instructor always says 'watch their heads'. Try as I might I never had time to watch Brady's head - I was always worried I wouldn't know where I was or I'd trip and fall. Now, we're gaining more experience, and I've had the delightful experience of 'seeing time slow down' - I can now watch her head and see that if her nose is pointed just a tad thataway, she's likely to go around a jump.

Interestingly enough, I had the idea in my mind that I wanted to push her out over jumps on a curve so I'd say 'out, over'. More times than not she'd go out around the jump (back when I wasn't able to watch her head). Finally I asked someone who saw the run what was up - she said I literally *pushed* Brady out around the jump. Ooops! To me it seemed like she should go OUT to the jump when actually she needed to be called 'HERE, over'.

When I did my first agility trial (last year at this very same time, Portland trials), BDL list members told me to 'say the obstacle, point my shoulders, give the hand cue' - that helped a lot but was a lot to remember too.

A club member here gave some really great advice at a seminar. Always take notes after your run. Start with "WHAT WE DID WELL" ; then move to "WHAT

WE NEED TO WORK ON". This person considers every trial as training for the next one. You can use the trial to learn how to make the next better.

There's an awful lot going on when you first start out, so don't forget to HAVE FUN!! Give your dog great reinforcements, just for being there, for being focused, for anything, make the whole event a *wonderful* experience! I hope you have other Beardies there to cheer for and to cheer for you. That makes a nice day too.

Good Luck! I look forward to hearing about your adventure.


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